Surprise! These Hitters Are Now Regulars — AL 9/14/20

It’s only been a week since the first edition of this series, and yet there are enough new regulars to post an update. With just two weeks left in the season, playing time is paramount. Don’t get stuck starting a bench player unless you literally have no other options.

Leave it up to the Orioles to make a career utility man their starting first baseman. Pat Valaika has started three of the last six Orioles games at the position, though his last two starts came at shortstop. Though his career wOBA sits at just .286, he does possess some power, with a career 14.6% HR/FB rate and .187 ISO. That power has been on display over a small sample this year too. While I wouldn’t expect much else, you could do worse than roster a guy playing nearly every day with some pop that qualifies in the middle infield and first base.

Christian Arroyo is a former top prospect in the Giants system, but now he finds himself on his third team since 2017, and yet he’s only earned 265 plate appearances in the Majors. He’s now gotten his turn to start at second for the Red Sox. He has shown decent contact ability in the minors and some power here and there. He has little speed and without standout power and expectations of a strong average, his upside is certainly limited. Don’t expect a whole lot, but playing time could be enough to result in some runs scored and runs batted in.

Despite a poor offensive showing at Triple-A last season, Tigers prospect Daz Cameron is now the team’s starting right fielder. He has struck out too much without the power to compensate, so if there were several months still left of the season, I would expect him to flop at the MLB level and be demoted back to the minors. But because he owns some power and speed, and the Tigers surely want to see what they have here, he’s certainly worth adding in hopes he has a hot two weeks.

It appears that Kelvin Gutierrez is now one of the beneficiaries of Jorge Soler’s injury, as he has started at third base the past two games for the Royals. He earned a cup of coffee last year, but struck out too much and hit far too many ground balls. His minor league record shows decent walk and strikeout rates with some power and a high BABIP mark. He has also swiped double digit bases, meaning he could contribute a bit all around while he remains the starter.

Man, has there been anyone hotter than Jared Walsh? Now earning the majority of the first base starts for the Angels, Walsh homered in four straight through Saturday. The 26-year-old was ranked as just the 25th best Angels prospect, so he wasn’t exactly expected to be part of their future. But, he’s shown excellent power in the minors, including an elite 33.3% HR/FB rate and crazy .361 ISO at Triple-A last year. Amazingly, that even came along with an acceptable strikeout rate and solid SwStk%, plus a double digit walk rate. Oh, and he hit a lot of line drives and posted a huge BABIP. He seems to have some real decent offensive potential so I’m not sure why he’s first pushing for more playing time now. He’ll likely be a popular pickup and expensive acquisition in FAAB bidding.

With Matt Chapman out for the rest of the season, the Athletics might be turning to their 17th ranked prospect, 26 year old Vimael Machin. Seriously, with a last name like that, it would be awesome if he became a monster hitter. He has posted insane walk and strikeout rate combos in the minors, often times walking more than striking out. He has also posted minuscule SwStk% marks, so he clearly knows the strike zone and how to put the bat on the ball. As you might suspect, he hasn’t shown much power and barely has any speed. So he’s a true Athletics Moneyball era type player who is better in real life than in fantasy. His value is likely significantly higher in OBP leagues.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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